Who is Baijayant Panda?

first_imgBaijayant Panda or Jay Panda, Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP from Kendrapara, has been openly critical of his party of late, making his stand clear through newspaper articles, tweets and statements. Faced with the spectacular success of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the panchayat elections in February and it emerging as the main Opposition to the BJD, Mr. Panda called for “introspection” in the party. Seen as an act of defiance, he was removed as spokesperson of the BJD Parliamentary Party in May. The BJD did win 474 of the 853 zilla parishad seats, but the rise in the BJP’s tally — from 36 to 297 — since the 2012 elections raised concerns in BJD circles. The BJP has been striving hard to emerge as the BJD’s alternative after it secured the second position in the panchayat polls overtaking the Congress. What has made things worse for Mr. Panda is a perception that he is acting at the behest of the BJP.What are his roots?Son of Odia industrialist Bansidhar Panda, who founded the IMFA, India’s largest, fully integrated producer of ferro alloys, Mr. Panda graduated from the Michigan Technological University and, with a background in engineering and management, worked in the corporate sector before joining politics.Although Mr. Panda’s father has stayed away from politics all these decades, his mother, the late Ila Panda, was a Rajya Sabha Member from 1992 to 1998. She represented the erstwhile Janata Dal, which Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s father and former Chief Minister Biju Patnaik led in Odisha those days.Why did he join politics?Mr. Panda joined active politics when the BJD was formed by Mr. Naveen Patnaik in December 1997, a few months after the demise of Biju Patnaik. He has had a long stint in Delhi and is well networked — he was Rajya Sabha member from 2000 to 2006 and was re-elected to the Upper House in 2006. But he chose to cut short his second term in the Rajya Sabha in 2009 and was elected to the Lok Sabha from Kendrapara, considered a stronghold of Biju Patnaik as well as an anti-Congress bastion. He was elected to the Lok Sabha again in 2014 when Narendra Modi became Prime Minister. Apart from having a business empire, Mr. Panda’s family owns prominent Odia news television channel Odisha TV (OTV), adding to his strength as a politician. By writing articles in national newspapers and making use of social media, Mr. Panda was the BJD’s face in New Delhi.What are his ambitions?Mr. Panda and Mr. Patnaik shared a warm friendship for years, but the relationship appeared to have soured after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, when the Kendrapara MP grew close to the BJP top brass. Mr. Panda wanted to be made leader of the BJD Parliamentary Party in the Lok Sabha, but had to be content with the position of spokesperson along with party MP from Balangir Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo. Mr. Panda’s national profile, coupled with his appreciation of Mr. Modi’s policies in several of his articles, made Mr. Patnaik suspicious of him. He began to see Mr. Panda as a political threat. Mr. Panda’s criticism of the BJD’s functioning became louder after the panchayat elections, forcing Mr. Patnaik to remove him as the party’s spokesperson. The State government’s subsequent action against Mr. Panda’s family-run mining operations also indicated that their relationship was on the brink.What are his options?According to party sources, if Mr. Panda continues to remain in the BJD, Mr. Patnaik may deny him ticket to contest the 2019 Assembly elections. In that case, Mr. Panda will have no difficulty in getting BJP ticket for his own political survival.Although Mr. Panda has not openly challenged Mr. Patnaik so far, after eggs were hurled at him in his own constituency by BJD activists for his critical stand against the party, he alleged that intra-party conflict and goondaism had surfaced in the past three years, with bureaucrats sitting in air-conditioned rooms in the capital Bhubaneswar managing party affairs. He alleged that many key positions were no longer held by people who struggled for the party, “who might have given a honest feedback, but rather by opportunists from various fields, including some who had worked against the party.” With the BJP trying to grow in Odisha by highlighting ‘Brand Modi,’ the ‘dissident’ in Mr. Panda is likely to create trouble for Mr. Patnaik in the months to come. Will Mr. Panda survive in the BJD that long?last_img read more


Kashmir, where hope and despair flit back and forth

first_imgThe gains made through the Army’s ‘Operation All-Out’ that left 212 militants dead in Jammu and Kashmir this year have been offset by the unprecedented local support to militancy, with the youth from the Valley joining its ranks in south Kashmir.Why is it a worry?The disturbing figures of November, from police data, show that at least six more local youths joined militant ranks. This happened despite the soft-approach adopted by both the Army and the police towards the locals. Armed local militants are offered the option of surrendering even while encounters are raging. They are allowed to return to a normal routine without facing any charge in police stations or forced to hand over weapons, as was the case in the past. Yet, over 150 local militants continue to be active in north and south Kashmir. As the count of the dead mounted, the Opposition National Conference (NC) sought an apology from Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti for failing to stop violence against civilians.The NC alleged that over 60 civilians were killed in 2017, including women and schoolchildren. Most of these civilian deaths were reported during counter-insurgency operations, especially when the people converged on the encounter site to help the trapped militants escape. Over 70 local militants were killed in such operations.According to a police assessment, around 117 locals, the highest number in the past decade, joined militancy this year. The ostensibly less militancy-affected districts in north Kashmir also showed an upward trend, with locals picking up arms: four from Kupwara, six from Baramulla and seven from Bandipora joined the ranks of militancy. This comes after the official figure of the number of local boys joining armed groups dipped to 23 in 2011.How can it be tackled?One of the biggest success stories of the security forces this year was the return of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) recruit Majid Khan, 22, in Anantnag, a central district in south Kashmir. Khan, an ace footballer who bears a resemblance to English cricket all-rounder Ben Stokes, was fast emerging as a poster boy for militants. His return and the subsequent efforts of the security agencies to wean away other youths was a welcome trend. It helped that families released emotional videos to recall their sons.Over 60 youths, according to the police, have been pulled away from militancy in 2017. However, after the surrender of Majid, around a dozen cases saw the “silent return” of armed youths back to a normal routine. The rounding up of at least three local injured armed militants from encounter sites also earned the good faith of the locals for the security agencies.Will carrot-and-stick policy work?Besides extending the carrot, the security forces dented the capabilities of the militant groups to strike by regularly zeroing in on their top operational commanders, especially the LeT’s Abu Ismail and Abu Dujana, both foreigners.Several battle-scarred local commanders, including Arif Lelhari, Junaid Mattoo, Bashir Lashkari, Sabzar Bhat, Shahbaz Shafi alias Rayees Kachroo and Aijaz Mir, were killed. One top-prize, Hizbul Mujahideen commander Abdul Qayoom Najar, was killed while he was infiltrating through the Line of Control at Uri in Baramulla to revive the militant ranks in north Kashmir.With the capabilities of the LeT and the Hizbul Mujahideen dented this year, the security agencies grapple with a new challenge: resurgence of the dreaded Jaish-e-Mohammad and pro-al-Qaeda ideology group, led by local commander Zakir Rashid Bhatt alias Musa, who left the post of divisional commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen for being “too soft.” As Jammu and Kashmir stares at 2018, the State continues to slip into the hands of more hard-line militant groups in the absence of confidence-building measures to address the larger political question. The appointment of Dineshwar Sharma as the Government of India’s Special Representative has raised hopes over the dialogue process, but will he be able to take everyone along?last_img read more


Man held for molesting U.S. tourist

first_imgThe Goa police on Tuesday arrested a motor-cycle taxi owner in connection with a complaint of molestation filed by a U.S. tourist.The woman had said on Facebook that she was molested during a bike ride in Goa on the eve of Republic Day. Inspector C.L. Patil, in charge of the Anjuna police station, told presspersons on Tuesday that Isidore Ferandes, 44, a resident of Anjuna in north coastal Goa, was arrested and handed over to the neighbouring Pernem police station as the crime area comes under its jurisdiction. Chandan Chaudhary, Superintendent of Police, North Goa, told The Hindu that the accused had confessed to the crime.The U.S. tourist had hired the motorcycle taxi for a ride from Arpora to Morjim beach village, both in North coastal Goa.last_img read more


Hindu outfit hounds Gujjar family

first_imgA Gujjar family, which helped in the burial of the eight-year-old rape victim of Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir, has lodged a complaint alleging harassment from the Hindu Ekta Manch. Muhammad Rafi from Kathua’s Kootha village said in his complaint: “My way was blocked by a group of agitators and foul language was used around 2 p.m. on April 13. They even threatened me and my family of dire consequences.” Talib Hussian, a lawyer activist, seeking justice for the Kathua rape victim, said, “The Hindu Ekta Manch is leaving no stone unturned to make sure that the Muslim nomads are intimidated and forced to give up their land.”last_img read more


Yeddyurappa resignation: Truth can never be defeated, says Tejashwi Yadav

first_imgRashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav on May 19 said truth can never be defeated and it will always defeat “a lie or liar”, after B.S. Yeddyurappa quit as Karnataka Chief Minister without facing the floor test in the State Assembly. “Truth can never be defeated! Truth will always defeat a lie or liar! #KarnatakaFloorTest,” Mr. Tejashwi Yadav tweeted.Mr. Tejashwi Yadav, the younger son of RJD president Lalu Prasad, had led a delegation of the RJD, the Congress, the CPI(M-L) and HAM leaders to Bihar Governor Satya Pal Mallik on May 18 to stake claim to form government in the State on the lines of Karnataka, where the single-largest party, the BJP, was invited to form the government, even though it fell short of a majority in the recently-concluded Assembly polls. The RJD is the single-largest party in the 243-member Bihar Assembly with 80 MLAs. It is in alliance with the Congress in Bihar after the disintegration of the Grand Alliance ministry, headed by Nitish Kumar, in July last year. PTI SNS RC RC 05191753last_img read more


34 years on, compensation for Blue Star detainees

first_imgThe detainees who were arrested and kept in a Jodhpur prison following the Army operation to flush out militants from the Golden Temple in 1984 will finally get some relief with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh scheduled to hand over compensation money to them today, a government spokesperson said on Wednesday.The Chief Minister will distribute cheques totalling ₹4.5 crore to 40 of the detainees here at a programme in the presence of all members of his Cabinet, the spokesperson said.Capt. Singh had recently written to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and also spoken to Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba on the matter. He had said if the Centre failed to pay its share of the compensation, then the State government will take over that liability too.300 people arrested Around 300 people were arrested and detained in the Jodhpur jail in June 1984 in the wake of Operation Blue Star, and were later released in three batches, between March 1989 and July 1991.Of these, 224 had appealed for compensation in the lower court, alleging wrongful detention and torture but they failed to get any relief from the court in 2011.However, 40 of the them went in appeal to the District and Sessions Court, Amritsar, and were awarded ₹4 lakh each as compensation with 6% interest (from the date of filing of the appeal to payment of compensation) in April last year.Appeal by CentreThe court had held the Union and the State governments jointly liable for payment of the compensation, and although the Punjab government had given an undertaking to the court to pay half the amount, the Centre had moved an appeal in the Punjab and Haryana High Court against the order, the spokesperson said.Earlier, the Chief Minister had also met the Jodhpur detainees and assured them of his government’s full support.Strong reaction The detainees had been suffering for the past several years for no fault of theirs, the Capt. Singh had said, while pointing out that the Centre’s decision to go in appeal against the compensation award had evoked a strong reaction among the Sikh community and was further likely to lead to a sense of alienation and perceived injustice among the community.last_img read more


Despite govt. order, Odisha schools charging fees from disabled students

first_imgDespite the Odisha government’s order to waive all academic fees for physically challenged students, several government and government-aided higher secondary schools are collecting admission fee from them.As per an order of the Department of School and Mass Education of Odisha dated May 25, 2018, ‘all academic fees, except mess charges, will be waived in respect of students with disabilities of 40% or more’. But due to ignorance of authorities of some higher secondary schools, physically challenged students are being pressed to pay up admission fee during admission to +2 courses.Immediate declaration Retired principal of Red Cross School for the Blind in Berhampur, Nabin Chandra Satapathy, has brought this to the notice of the State Commissioner for Persons with Disbilities, Odisha. Mr. Satapathy, who is actively involved in issues related to bind students, demanded that the government make some immediate declaration so that higher secondary schools stop collecting admission fee from blind students during admissions.In his representation, Mr. Satapathy has cited example of three visually impaired students who have passed the tenth board examination from Red Cross School for the Blind, Berhampur, and have got admitted in different higher secondary schools of the State. Receipts of these students clearly state that admission fee was collected from them.This error has happened in top higher secondary institutions of the State like Ravenshaw Higher Secondary School, Cuttack, and Khallikote Higher Secondary School, Berhampur. “Dutikrushna Jena had to pay over ₹4000 to get admitted in +2 first year of arts course in Muniguda Junior College of Rayagada district. Similarly S.Nahak had to pay ₹961 for admission to higher secondary arts course of Ravenshaw Higher Secondary School, Cuttack. Prabhakar Sethi paid ₹1,062 for +2 arts admission in Khallikote Higher Secondary School, Berhampur,” said Mr. Satapathy.last_img read more


Congress ‘thanks’ former Goa CM for exposing mining scam

first_imgThe Congress in Goa on Monday thanked former Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar for his “boldness” in exposing his own party’s Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, in connection with a complaint before the Lokayukta on illegalities in second renewal of 88 leases in the mining industry. Speaking to the press here, A. Chellakumar, AICC general secretary in-charge of Goa further said that an affidavit filed by Mr. Parsekar before the Goa Lokayukta, which is probing an illegal mining scam, also exposes the lies peddled by the BJP when it was in opposition and had blamed Congress leaders of committing a ₹35,000 crore illegal mining scam.“Mr. Parrikar sitting in opposition had gone on a padayatra and undertook many agitations. He had told so many lies. He went to any extent to brand Congress as corrupt,” Mr. Chellakumar said and added that Mr. Parsekar’s affidavit now exposes those behind the mining scam.Mr. Parsekar had succeeded Mr. Parrikar as CM, after the latter joined the Union Cabinet as Defence Minister in 2014. Mr. Parsekar was defeated in the 2017 Assembly elections, and Mr. Parrikar again took charge as Chief Minister after resigning as Defence Minister. In his affidavit filed before the Goa Lokayukta, Mr. Parsekar, who is made one of the respondents in illegal mining scam case by NGO Goa Foundation, has claimed that “certain individuals”, who were involved in the process for granting the renewals were “left out” by the complainant. He further said that he was being targeted selectively at the behest of vested interests as he was no more holding any position of power .Responding to this affidavit, the petitioner Claude Alvares, Director, Goa Foundation had declared on Saturday that Mr. Parrikar, who was also Chief Minister at the time the first six mining leases were granted for second renewals, will be made party to the case before the Lokayukta. He said that initially he had left out Mr. Parrikar as he was unwell. The Goa Foundation complaint before the Lokayukta has called it a ₹1.44 lakh crore second renewal scam.last_img read more


Tension in Gorakhpur

first_imgTension prevailed on Monday morning in the Padri Bazaar area here when at least 12 idols were found broken and scattered on the ground, police said. The idols belonged to Natveer Baba temple and other roadside shrines, they said. Top police officers reached the spot and controlled the situation.last_img


U.S. Senate wants more support for science at black colleges

first_imgSenate appropriators want the National Science Foundation (NSF) to do more for faculty and students at the nation’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). It’s the latest attempt by Congress to push NSF in that direction. And although NSF officials agree on the importance of helping those institutions as part of a larger effort to broaden participation in science and engineering, they don’t like being told exactly how to do it.A 2015 spending bill now being debated by the full Senate contains three specific ways for NSF to increase its support of HBCUs, 106 institutions that range from 2-year schools to research universities. In report language accompanying the bill, the legislators declare that: NSF should form a “high-level” advisory panel that will suggest ways to increase opportunities for HBCU faculty to obtain grants from the agency’s six research directorates.“We’re not pointing a finger at NSF,” explains an aide to the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is chaired by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D–MD). “But we’ve heard from a lot of people representing the HBCU community that they could use a little help. It’s more a question of spotlighting an area that needs attention.”Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Congress has tried in recent years to get NSF to expand its outreach to groups traditionally underrepresented in science, including Hispanics and women. NSF operates several such programs within its education directorate, some cofunded by one or more of the research directorates. However, the agency traditionally has resisted what it regards as overly prescriptive language and has had some success in getting legislators to modify directives that NSF sees as misdirected or duplicative of existing efforts.For example, a 2010 law ordered NSF to create a program explicitly for Hispanic serving institutions (HSIs), a larger and more amorphous category than HBCUs. NSF officials argued that its existing programs for undergraduates would do a better job of serving the Hispanic population than a program that targets HSIs would. This year, the House of Representatives spending panel that draws up NSF’s budget signaled its willingness to go along with that argument. “The Committee accepts this approach for fiscal year 2015 with the understanding that such targeted opportunities cumulatively will constitute a $30,000,000 investment,” the House legislators wrote in a report accompanying their version of the spending bill.But so far the Senate’s Mikulski is sticking to her guns on HSIs. The Senate bill would give NSF $5 million to carry out the terms of the 2010 law, creating “a Hispanic- Serving Institutions Program that is designed to increase the recruitment, retention, and graduation rates of Hispanic students pursuing associate or baccalaureate degrees in STEM fields.”The new provisions relating to HBCUs are the result of a successful lobbying effort by academic community leaders. Although HBCUs enroll only 9% of all African-Americans in U.S. higher education, they play an outsized role in producing the next generation of minority scientists and engineers. For example, HBCUs hold nine of the top 10 spots on a list of undergraduate institutions that African-American students attended before receiving Ph.D.s in science and engineering. At the same time, only one HBCU—Florida A&M University—ranks in the top 200 of institutions receiving NSF research funding. The agency’s “anemic track record [in making research grants to HBCUs] … must change if the Nation is to take advantage of the country’s growing diversity” in remaining an economic powerhouse, declares a report accompanying the Senate bill.“Senator Mikulski understands the value and role of HBCUs in producing the talent that we need to produce the next generation of innovators,” says David Wilson, president of Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, one of several academic leaders that she consulted before drafting the bill. “She has four HBCUs in her state, and we have had several conversations about making strategic investments in these institutions. I’m elated that these ideas are finally making their way forward,” adds Wilson, who is also a member of the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.Wilson hopes the language in the bill will lay the groundwork for a broader initiative to help HBCUs compete for funding. It could, he says, resemble the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), a long-running NSF program designed to help states with low research activity strengthen their capacity to compete against scientific powerhouses like Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A new initiative could be “an EPSCoR-style program for HBCUs,” Wilson says.Indeed, the ranking Democrat on the House spending panel that funds NSF is in the process of crafting such language. Representative Chaka Fattah (D–PA) told ScienceInsider that “I think that is a good idea and my staff is actually working on it” as part of the Democratic bill to reauthorize NSF programs. Fattah said details would be forthcoming.The Senate’s language on broadening I-Corps is designed to enhance recent efforts by Morgan State and other urban HBCUs to build ties with local businesses and encourage faculty to become more entrepreneurial. “We’ve started the Morgan Community Mile to attract more R&D firms and to create our own companies, and this initiative dovetails nicely with what we and other HBCUs are doing,” Wilson says. Likewise, he says, the proposed NSF advisory panel on HBCUs will allow the agency “to pick the brains of academic leaders to ensure that every NSF program considers the needs of minority institutions in increasing participation in the STEM fields.”NSF officials have no quarrel with the intent of the legislative language. “We have a deep commitment to broadening participation,” says Joan Ferrini-Mundy, head of NSF’s education directorate. But the agency is still mulling over the likely impacts of the specific changes being proposed.An existing NSF program, called HBCU-UP, serves undergraduates and has many of the same goals as what Mikulski has proposed, she notes. HBCU-UP began in 1998 as a scholarship program to attract and retain minority students in STEM fields, explains Program Manager Claudia Rankins. “But then we realized we also needed to support faculty, departments, and even entire disciplines, like the geosciences, where minorities are severely underrepresented.”The result is a $32-million-a-year, hydra-headed program that allows institutions to address particular needs, such as revising how so-called gateway courses like calculus are taught so that poorly prepared students can master the topic rather than simply be weeded out. Successful programs appear to share such ingredients as strong academic mentoring and career counseling, summer research opportunities, and internships with local companies, they note. Although NSF hopes that other institutions facing similar challenges can learn from successful HBCU-UP projects, Ferrini-Mundy warns that “exact replication often doesn’t make sense in education.”Ferrini-Mundy takes issue with the Senate’s assertion that the research directorates have been reluctant to support faculty at HBCU institutions. And she thinks that scientists of all stripes are slowly recognizing that the I-Corps program, which is open to anyone with an NSF grant, can be an instrument for disseminating best educational practices as well as for commercializing a scientific breakthrough.To date, only one of roughly 140 I-Corps awards has gone to an HBCU faculty member. But Ferrini-Mundy says, “I expect that we’ll start seeing more involvement in I-Corps from the education community,” including faculty members at HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions.Incremental progress is fine as long as it comes with increased recognition of the contributions that HBCUs can make, says the Senate aide. “The idea is to foster a discussion about how we can do things better,” the aide says. “So it’s more of a qualitative than a quantitative approach to improvement. Our goal is to raise awareness of what we are hearing from members about the need to address this issue.”Once the Senate acts, its version of the spending bill for NSF and several other federal agencies will need to be reconciled with what the House has approved. That is not expected to occur until after the November elections. NSF would then have to take up the task of implementing the language regarding HBCUs and HSIs, a process that may well require additional conversations with its congressional overseers. HBCUs should receive “no fewer than three” of the 15 awards that NSF plans to make next year under one component of its Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program that teaches faculty how to commercialize their discoveries;center_img NSF should carve out $7.5 million from existing minority activities for a program aimed at attracting students into the life sciences;last_img read more




India Urges UK to Extradite Fugitives Vijay Mallya & Lalit Modi

first_imgIndian authorities on Wednesday requested United Kingdom to expedite the extradition processes of estranged liquor baron Vijay Mallya and former IPL boss Lalit Modi so that they can be brought back home to face trials in courts here.During the third India-UK home affairs dialogue in New Delhi yesterday, Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba informed his British counterpart Patsy Wilkinson that India’s extradition attempts against Mallya and Lalit Modi are going on in UK’s courts currently but the government there must also do more on its behalf to help India expedite the process.Read it at The Indian Wire Related Itemslast_img read more


Winners And Losers

first_imgSoon after Mebrahtom Keflezighi became the first American in 27 years to win the New York City Marathon on Nov. 7, an online debate erupted over whether the 34-year-old Eritrea-born U.S. citizen was legitimately an “American winner.”Although Keflezighi migrated to the United States in 1987 when he was only 12 and became a naturalized citizen in 1998, a New York Times headline noted, “To Some, Winner Is Not American Enough.” The online controversy ricocheted into the mainstream media. CNBC.com sports business reporter Darren Rovell commented that Keflezighi is only “technically American,” adding, “Nothing against Keflezighi, but he’s like a ringer who you hire to work a couple hours at your office so that you can win the executive softball league.”Rovell later apologized, admitting: “It turns out, Keflezighi moved to the United States in time to develop at every level in America. So Meb is in fact an American trained athlete and an American citizen and he should be celebrated as the American winner of the NYC Marathon.”  The online debate parsed considerations such as U.S. birth, age at which one migrates or becomes a U.S. citizen, the length of time one has lived in the country, etc. Do you become a “real American”, as opposed to a “technical” one, when you are naturalized? Is a U.S. permanent resident of 30 years “less American” than a naturalized citizen who has lived in the United States for just five years? How about a long resident nonimmigrant or, for that matter, an illegal alien? Also, when an immigrant becomes an American citizen, does she lose her original nationality? Does that depend on whether you are, say, an Argentinean citizen (which permits dual nationality) or an Indian citizen (which does not)?It is ironic that America, the immigrant Mecca, has such difficulty embracing its naturalized citizens, when its law commands their allegiance and fidelity. By contrast, India, which has among the world’s most restrictive citizenship practices, can’t seem to break its bonds with overachieving nationals, who by law are obligated to renounce their Indian citizenship when they swear a foreign allegiance. Indeed, it claims into its bear hug even those without a credible association. Witness the joyous celebrations in India over NASA astronaut Sunita Williams and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, both of whom are U.S. born with no particular affinity for India. This October, after he won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, British molecular biologist Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, who emigrated in 1972 from Tamil Nadu, complained of Indians “clogging up” his mailbox with congratulatory messages. India clings tenaciously to its globally reputed naturalized citizens even in death. Recently, the Indian government rejected as “absurd” a claim from Albania to return Albanian born Nobel laureate Mother Teresa’s remains from Calcutta, who, an Indian spokesman insisted “is resting in her own country, her own land.”Curious how India and America seem to have their citizenship wires crossed.  Related Itemslast_img read more



What Urban Design Reveals about Economic Development

first_imgEvery city tells a story. More specifically, the geographical shape of an urban area is key to understanding its economic development. Is it compact and circular, making life more efficient for residents and businesses? Or is it marked by spatial sprawl, resulting in longer commutes? Mariaflavia Harari, Wharton professor of real estate, explores this notion in her forthcoming paper, “Cities in Bad Shape: Urban Geometry in India.” Harari uses satellite images that show the shapes over time of 450 cities in India and compares that with economic indicators, such as housing rents and wages, to paint a revealing portrait about urban growth that has implications for policy makers as they plan for the future.Tweaking the CircleI work on urbanization and developing countries, and in my recent research I have looked at the spatial patterns of urbanization in India, trying to understand the economic implications of different city structures. If you look at urban areas from an airplane, for example, you can see that cities come in different shapes. Some have outlines that are roughly circular; others appear more fragmented, and yet others are constrained by their geographies. For instance, cities on islands or peninsulas end up having even more irregular shapes. My research question was what influence, if any, does a city’s shape have on the location choices of consumers and firms? Do consumers and firms benefit in terms of welfare or productivity from locating in cities with particular shapes?Why would we expect city shape to matter at all from an economic standpoint? As urban planners have long recognized, city shape is one of the determinants of urban commuting efficiency, along with more widely studied factors, such as infrastructure or travel demand. More compact, more circular city geometries are conducive to shorter, within-city trips.To give you a sense of how this works, think of a circle. Now imagine that, holding the area constant, you start tweaking the circle, turning it into some irregular shape. As the shape of this polygon departs from that of a circle, becoming less and less compact, the average distance between points within this polygon will tend to increase. The same thing happens to cities as they expand in space.A good, real-world example of these types of interactions is the comparison between Calcutta and Bangalore. Of the top cities in India, Calcutta is the least compact one. It kind of looks like an upside down giraffe head with a long, north-south tentacle. Bangalore, on the other hand, is more like a pentagon, and it’s the most compact one. I calculate that, all else being equal, if Calcutta had the same compact shape as Bangalore, the average within-city trip, proxied by the average distance between points within the city, would be shorter by 6.2 kilometers (3.8 miles). This is not trivial if you think that the average commuting speed in the top cities in India is around 15 kph.The View from Far AboveIf you look at a picture of the Earth at night taken from a satellite, urban areas are clearly visible as patches of light. I looked at the outlines of over 450 cities in India based on how they appear in nighttime satellite imagery.For each city, for each of these patches of light, I computed a number of indicators for geometric shape that are basically telling us the extent to which a city’s shape departs from that of a circle. I did this for multiple years to have a sense of the dynamic evolution of city shapes over time. And finally, I linked city shape to economic outcomes measured at the city level, such as population, average local wages and average housing rents. I found that households located in more compact cities are better off. First, more compact cities attract larger populations. Second, households that are located in more compact cities are implicitly paying a premium in terms of higher housing rents and net of local wages in order to live in cities with better geometries.This tells us that consumers are valuing city compactness as an urban amenity that they are willing to implicitly pay for. And this implied premium that they are paying is actually quite large. I estimate that households are trading off implicitly 5% of their income in order to live in cities that are more compact by one standard deviation. Now for the average city, a one standard deviation improvement in compactness implies that your average round-trip commute decreases by 720 meters. These are potential commute estimates based on the distribution of points within the city; these are not observed commutes that I can see in my data.On the other hand, firms are not affected in their productivity by city shape. Compact cities are just as productive, and compactness appears to be a pure consumption amenity. Now, you may worry that compact cities are systematically different from others in some dimension other than geometry. What if these more compact cities are also more successful, more developed cities that consumers like for reasons that are just correlated with geometry, but have nothing to do with it?To address the fact that these confounding factors might be biasing my results, I’m not simply making a crude comparison between compact and non-compact cities in my analysis. I look at what happens when a given city becomes less compact as a result of hitting some topographic obstacle, like a mountain or a lake, as it expands in space. What I find is that when a city ends up with a worse geometry because of hitting some geographic constraints, its population growth slows down, and housing rents and local wages tend to decrease.Growing up Versus Growing OutIndia is predicted to urbanize very rapidly in the next decades, and local policy makers need options to accommodate this urban growth. My findings suggest that accommodating this urban expansion in a more or less compact way can have potentially relevant implications for household welfare and urbanization patterns. Clearly, not all cities can be circular due to topography. In fact, at a descriptive level, one of the patterns that I find is that cities tend to become less and less compact over time as they expand. But there is room for land-use regulations to promote more or less compact development.As an example of this, in my work, I consider a regulatory tool that is quite controversial in India right now – vertical limits. These are restrictions on building heights that in India are considered very strict, relative to international standards. A lot of commentators and local policy makers are concerned that these stringent vertical limits are inducing sprawl and making cities spread out more.What I find is that cities that have more restrictive building height regulations end up having footprints that are not only larger but also less compact relative to what their topography and predicted growth would suggest. Relaxing these constraints would be a way at least to slow down the deterioration in city shape that city growth entails.A second policy implication could be related to investments in urban infrastructure. One of my findings is that that negative consequences of bad city geometry are more pronounced in cities that have a poor road network. So, providing road infrastructure might be a way to compensate consumers for the poor shape of the city that they live in.Digging Deeper into the DataSo far in my research, I have looked at city-level aggregate outcomes and compared the outlines of cities, looking at cross-city comparisons. What I’d like to do next is take this to a more disaggregated level and look at what happens within cities, look at the internal structure of cities. As a follow up to this project, it would be important to understand who bears the costs of longer commutes in cities that are not compact.What categories of consumers are affected the most? Perhaps it is low-income households that don’t have access to individual transportation. What consequences, if any, does city shape have on residential patterns, and in particular, residential segregation by socio-economic status? Are some kinds of city shapes more conducive to segregation and others more conductive to integration?  Related Itemslast_img read more


Lots of Asians in Tech, But not in Management

first_imgWhen Silicon Valley talks about diversity, about boosting underrepresented groups, they’re not talking about Asians.Asian tech workers are lumped in with white employees—categorized as overrepresented, a group that companies don’t need to worry about.That perception has for years overshadowed the reality faced by these tech workers, according to a study released this week: Asians, especially Asian women, are among the least likely to be promoted to management positions.And that is just the beginning of Silicon Valley’s continuing problem with race, according to an analysis of federal employment data from 2007 to 2015 by the Ascend Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for Asian representation in business.Representation among black and Hispanic workers declined over that time period, the study found. And though the gender gap is closing for white women, who have increased their representation in leadership positions by 17 percent over the nine-year period, women of color lagged far behind.“It’s pretty startling that over the last nine years, not much has changed as far as upward mobility for minority groups,” said Denise Peck, one of the study’s authors and a former vice president at Cisco.Part of the problem, the researchers said, is that while executives may examine data about their workforce, they may not scrutinize the problems that certain groups — like Asian and Hispanic women — have with getting promoted.“Asians are the only race underrepresented in middle management — that really surprised me,” said Buck Gee, who is also a former Cisco vice president and co-author of the study. “And that’s a trend that is consistent over time, not just a one-year aberration.”“You see a lot of Asians all over campus, and you don’t get a sense there’s a problem by just the sheer number,” Peck added. “But when you look at the data, you see that, my goodness, they’re the most likely to be hired but the least likely to be promoted to mid-level or senior management.”It’s not just tech leaders who assume Asians are overrepresented in tech.Even Steve Bannon, the White House’s former chief strategist and close adviser to President Trump, suggested in a 2015 interview with Trump that there were too many Asian CEOs in Silicon Valley.Bannon, in the interview resurfaced last year by the Washington Post, made reference to the idea that foreign-born students should return to their countries after completing school in the United States, rather than applying for jobs here and working, say, at a tech company.“When two-thirds of, three-quarters of the CEOs in Silicon Valley are from South Asia or from Asia, I think …” he said, trailing off. “A country is more than an economy. We’re a civic society.”Two of the most prominent CEOs in technology are, in fact, Asian: Google’s Sundar Pichai and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella are originally from India.According to Ascend’s analysis of data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Asian men make up about 32 percent of the tech workforce — an increase of about 9.5 percent since 2007 — and about 20 percent of tech executives.Meanwhile, Asian women, who make up about 15 percent of tech’s workforce, hold only about 5 percent of leadership positions, according to Ascend.White women, though only 11.5 percent of the tech workforce, make up 13.4 percent of tech leadership, the study found.Looking at the patterns of white women and men versus those of racial minorities led the authors of the study to conclude that race, rather than gender, appeared to be a bigger hindrance for tech workers seeking a promotion.“What you start to see when you really study this data is there are specific problem areas with specific demographic groups,” Peck said. “With black women, you have a problem of recruitment and retention. With white women, it’s mostly recruitment. With Asians, you have a problem of promotion. I think what we need tech companies to start doing is to look at their diversity data in a very fine-grained way.”Though the Asian diaspora is wide and culturally varied, Gee and Peck said the trends among Asians in their study held true for East Asians and South Asians alike. Because they relied on a data set collected by the U.S. government, they were unable to break down the numbers into specific ethnic groups, such as Chinese, Indian or Filipino.Asians encounter a clash between their cultural norms and behavior expected of tech leaders, said Kim Marcelis, Cisco’s vice president of operations and a former adviser to the company’s Asian employee resource group.“I think a lot of Asians believe that if they keep their head down and do the work, their work will speak for itself,” she said. “It’s a cultural thing that many of us are brought up believing.”Potential leaders, she said, are expected to network and assert themselves.Marcelis said when she was younger, she would call her manager with weekly voice mail updates of what she was working on and how she was doing. It was perfect for her, a self-described introvert: She could call and talk to a machine, delete and re-record as many times as she wanted, and still get across the message that she was doing good work and convey confidence.Despite companies’ growing moves to report diversity data and spend millions of dollars on recruiting and retention, the representation of other minority groups, like black and Hispanic tech workers, started at low levels and worsened over the period studied.Black women, the least represented group in tech, make up less than half a percent of executives, the study found.The researchers based their findings on the responses of nearly 261,000 workers at companies including Apple, Facebook, Cisco, Twitter, Intel, Hewlett-Packard and Yelp.— San Francisco Chronicle© The New York Times 2017 Related Itemslast_img read more


India’s Homegrown Payment Gateway Giving Tough Fight to Visa and Mastercard

first_imgIndia’s domestic payment gateways like RuPay and BHIM UPI are now giving a tough fight to foreign players like Visa and Mastercard, who are fast losing their clout in the country.In 2013, just a year after launch, RuPay had just 0.6 percent market share, but now controls almost half of the market share, Financial Express reported. The card is backed by the Government of India and all Indian banks now issue RuPay cards as well as cards that carry Visa and Mastercard logo.According to Reserve Bank Of India data, India has over 925 million debit cards and 500 million of these cards, issued by 1100 banks, are powered by RuPay.  The card scheme was originally conceived and launched by the National Payments Corporation of India (NCPI) in 2012. According to the Economic Times, the card scheme saw an uptick in 2014 after the government instructed the issuance of the card to every account holder who opened the account under the Prime Minister Jan Dhan Yojana.The government too seems to be pleased with the way RuPay has become popular. On Nov. 8, Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said at an event that with the rising popularity and usage of RuPay, global payment gateways like Visa and Mastercard have been losing market share. He said after India banned the use of high denomination currency notes in November 2016, digital transactions have increased. On. Nov. 14, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was speaking at Singapore Fintech Festival, said: “Financial inclusion has become a reality for 1.3 billion Indians.” He said that digital transactions have been facilitated by homegrown BHIM and Rupay platforms.According to a report in the news portal The Logical India, in the financial year 2017-2018, RuPay cards were used for 459 million point-of-sale (POS) transaction, as opposed to 195 million in 2016-2017. The news portal also said that the number of RuPay cards in circulation has seen a massive growth in the financial year 2017-18. While transactions worth Rs 16,000 crores took place on RuPay when compared to Rs 5,934 the year earlier, the news portal reported.Another system of money transfer developed by India that has become popular is the UPI based BHIM. The Bharat Interface for Money or BHIM as it’s known helps individual transfer money real-time by using a single identity like a mobile number which is linked to a bank account. Like RuPay, BHIM too has been developed by the NPCI and has been built over IMPS (Immediate Payment Service).With RuPay and BHIM becoming popular, Mastercard, which is the world’s second-biggest card company, reportedly complained to the Office of the United States Trade Representative. The company alleged that the Indian government was associating RuPay with nationalism. It also said that the Indian government has adopted certain protectionist policies to promote domestic card network at the cost of other companies. Related Itemslast_img read more


Indian American Doctor Pleads Guilty to Healthcare Fraud

first_imgAn Indian American doctor has pleaded guilty to one count of healthcare fraud in the United States. Dr. Jayam Krishna Iyer could be sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, or 20 years if her offense involved serious bodily injury. Iyer, 66, accepted her involvement in medical fraud on Sept.18, U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) in Middle District of Florida, said in a statement. “As part of the plea, Iyer has agreed to surrender both her DEA registration number that she used to prescribe controlled substances and her Florida medical license, and to a permanent exclusion from the Medicare and Medicaid programs,” the statement added. Iyer owned and operated Creative Medical Center located in Clearwater, Florida, which functioned as a pain management clinic. She was accused of  billing Medicare and Medicaid for office visits, tests, and services provided to patients using her National Provider Identification (NPI) number, while she didn’t actually examine these patients in person. She also wrote the prescriptions for controlled substances, including oxycodone, without even seeing the patient, which is a violation of law. The fraud began at least as early as July 2011, and continued through December 2017, the USAO statement said. “Iyer executed and carried out a scheme to defraud Medicare by billing for face-to-face office visits with Medicare beneficiaries, when, in fact, certain patients did not go to Iyer’s office and were not examined by her on the claimed dates,” according to the statement. On some occasions, it was the family members of patients who went to Iyer’s office with notes requesting her to issue and provide prescriptions to them, and in the beneficiaries’ names — and Iyer issued those prescriptions.Florida law requires doctors to perform an in-person office visit and examination of each patient before issuing Schedule II controlled substance prescriptions. “Iyer also falsified her electronic medical records, including vital statistics, to make it appear that the actual patient was present in her office for an office visit, when the patient was not. Iyer submitted at least $51,500 in these types of false and fraudulent Medicare claims,” the statement added. The  case was investigated by the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit. In July this year, another India origin doctor, Dr. Bharat Patel, had pleaded guilty to writing unnecessary prescriptions to patients to get monetary benefits. He was charged for running a “pill mill” last year.  Related Itemsfloridahealth fraudIndian Americanlast_img read more


88% driving licences underscanner in Assam district

first_imgMore than 88% of the driving licences issued in Hailakandi district of Assam have come under the scanner.The southern Assam district has 45,300 driving licence holders. A scrutiny during an attempt to convert the laminated paper licences to smart cards revealed that some 40,000 of them could be “doubtful” or procured fraudulently.Last week, Hailakandi’s District Transport Officer Syed Rafiqul Mannan issued an order saying a majority of the licences were purportedly issued by his counterpart in Manipur’s Bishnupur district while the rest were issued by a “certain district” of Nagaland. These licences were flagged as doubtful.Agents to blame? There have been cases of people acquiring driving licences from neighbouring States after their applications were rejected in Assam.The DTO said that most of the people who applied for smart card revealed on being questioned that they did not go to Manipur or Nagaland to obtain their licences. This brought to the fore the issue of bogus driving licences being made with the help of agents.“Data was not available online as most of the licences were of the laminated type. The process of converting them into smart cards was accordingly put on hold. More than 40,000 such licences are lying in my office,” Mr. Mannan said.Smart cards The smart cards would be issued once his counterparts in Manipur and Nagaland confirm the authenticity of the driving licences purportedly issued from their offices, he said.Officials said the licences will be cancelled, as per the Motor Vehicles Act, if they are not found to be genuine. People can reapply online for fresh smart card licences.last_img read more